Friends Robert Williams, Han-li, and Han-ji are no strangers to the café scene.
For a few years they operated a small city venue called Smuggle Seeds Espresso and would regularly dine at local cafés around Perth, noting what they liked, what they didn’t, and what they would do differently if given the chance.
Eventually the time came to bid their 60-square-metre space goodbye and say hello to a more spacious venue in the epicentre of Perth.
The Bayswater site is now large enough to hold a commercial kitchen to serve an all-day breakfast and lunch menu.
“When customers enjoy our food and drink our coffee they’re enjoying a reflection of things that we personally like and enjoy, as opposed to trends,” Robert says.
With the help of designers Bremick Group, the space was soon transformed into a café oasis with wooden brown tones, elements of green, and dim lighting.
“We presented the interior designers with a folder of the styles of cafés we liked from around the world, including ideas from Pinterest, mixed with our own flair. They took it all on board and did a terrific job,” Robert says.
As for the name Tbsp (Tablespoon), Robert says it was a light-bulb moment one day baking in the kitchen.
“I was holding a tablespoon measuring device in my hand, and I looked down and thought, ‘why not?’ I wanted people to associate the name with food and the culinary side of our business, and not just another small specialty café,” he says.
“People can get caught up in the intimidation of what it means to be a specialty coffee shop. Our challenge was how can we serve them our coffee and still find a way to show our customers how to appreciate where the coffee comes from without overwhelming them. Our solution is to continue to do the best job with every cup we make, and be transparent to our customers if they have any questions.”
Robert and his team of baristas use a Synesso Hydra Generation 2 paddle machine to keep the artisan approach alive.
Tbsp uses Perth’s Blacklist Coffee Roasters’ Etude for its milk-based coffee. Robert says this blend bring out chocolate notes. It also serves Melbourne’s Small Batch Roasters’ Candyman blend for black coffees, which highlights citrus tones.
Rotating single origins, cold brew, and filter coffees from Small Batch are also available and served with a Marco sp9 manul pour over brewer.
“We’re serving hundreds of filter coffees a week and we can because of the Marco pour over brewer, it’s amazing,” Robert says.
Tbsp attracts an “eclectic mix” of customers each day, including parents and business people, to senior citizens.
“I’m finding the elderly are more keen to drink single origins than the younger demographic. The other day we had a table full of elderly ladies drinking coffee tonics and cold drip, and absolutely loving it,” Robert says.
On the opposite end of the scale, babycinos with melted white chocolate imported from France have every child captivated and asking for more.
As for the big kids, there’s plenty to keep them satisfied too. Robert describes the menu as a “casual eating experience not defined by genre”.
“You might be eating a breakfast congee, and the friend next to you scrambled eggs,” he says.
Favourite items that allow you to “eat with your eyes” includes the brioche French toast, avocado tartine, kim-cheese burger, fried chicken sandwich, brisket benedict, and grilled sandwiches that are as big as the plate they’re served on.
“We want to be an intimidation-free café. Tsbp is a project. It’s an experiment in how we can serve delicious food and coffee together in an approachable and accessible way, and it’s working,” Robert says.
“I’m enjoying the connections with everyone who comes in. One gentleman was nearly in tears as he thanked us for the best breakfast he’s ever had. This experience has taught our customers that it’s OK to not understand every item on our menu. Instead, ask us. We always want to provide the answer.”